TWO North American Farmers are touring Australia to warn about their experiences with genetically modified (GM) food crops.The farmers, Moe Parr and Ross Murray. say more than a decade of growing GM crops in North America has resulted in increased corporate control of farming and reduced profits for farmers.
As Australian farmers prepare to plant this year’s canola crop, the North Americans will speak at forums across key canola growing regions in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales.
The farmers are speaking to parliamentarians at the Victoria Parliament today, and will be speaking to farmers in Horsham on Saturday at 2pm at the Wellesley Performing Arts Centre.
In 2008, small quantities of GM canola were grown commercially in New South Wales and Victoria after these two states lifted moratoria.
Western Australia has also announced that it will allow large-scale field trials of GM canola for the first time this year.
Mr Parr, a seed cleaner from Indiana, in the United States, was sued by Monsanto in 2007 for allegedly “aiding”, “abetting” and “encouraging” GM soy farmers to break the patent law by saving seed.
Mr Parr said he was unable to afford the legal fees to defend himself and was forced to settle out of court.
As part of the settlement, Mr Parr says he now has to have each lot of seed he cleans tested for GM contamination and send the results to Monsanto.
“In effect I have become an unpaid enforcement officer for Monsanto.” Mr Parr said.
“Because of GM contamination and the monopoly control of seeds by bio tech companies, in the United States it is nearly impossible to go back. Farmers in Australia still have a choice about whether they want to go down the GM path or not.”
Mr Murray, a farmer from Saskatchewan, Canada, grew GM Roundup Ready canola for some years.
He said he found that it failed to deliver industry promises.
“GM canola doesn’t stack up; it doesn’t yield more than conventional canola, whereas it costs more to grow," he said. "But now farmers don’t have a choice; non-GM canola has been eliminated by genetic contamination."
Julie Newman, a Western Australian canola farmer and member of the Network of Concerned Farmers, says: “GM canola will risk the livelihoods of non-GM canola farmers. The end point royalty system, under which Monsanto can deduct fees from non-GM canola farmers even for accidental contamination, leaves them completely without choice.“
She said concerned Australian farmers were calling on the federal and state governments to protect their choice and livelihood by introducing liability legislation to protect non-GM farmers from any economic losses caused by GM contamination.
“Our governments must put the interest of farmers before those of multinational agribusiness companies. All we are asking for is fair risk management”, Ms Newman said.